Impostor Syndrome

A piece on this phenomenon, posted recently on Facebook, came with this Brad(ford) Veley cartoon:

Note the variant spellings.

Before I go on to the phenomenon, a word about the cartoonist, from his website:

My name is Bradford Veley, and I specialize in business & workplace cartoons, along with a wide assortment of alternative and general-topic cartoons, too!

My mission: to help you boost profits, sales, circulation and awareness through award-winning humor.

Now on IS, from Wikipedia:

The impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome), sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

… Prevalence: Psychological research done in the early 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds and other studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. It is not considered a psychological disorder, and is not among the conditions described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

(On the spelling, see my posting “impostor vs. imposter” of 11/25/10. Bottom line: there’s absolutely nothing of consequence in the matter; go with whichever spelling you fancy.)

I’m inclined to IS myself, given to attributing my professional successes to (a) my good fortune in hooking up with generative grammar in its very early days; and (b) my being a nice guy.

My long-time friend (and sometime collaborator) Steve Isard, a multi-talented researcher, used to carry in his wallet a cartoon (by, I think, Jules Feiffer) which featured an IS sufferer haunted by the belief that “Some day they’ll find you out and take it all away”. Eventually it happened: the ominous They found him out (of the office) and proceeded to take everything in the office away. Steve found it reassuring.

One Response to “Impostor Syndrome”

  1. I’m an impostor | Saneeya Qureshi Says:

    […] image source: Arnold Zwicky’s Blog […]

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